In 1860, peddler Levi Strauss (1829-1902) arrived in San Francisco with bales of canvas cloth he intended to use to make tents and wagon coverings. When gold rush prospectors and miners complained that their ordinary trousers wore out too quickly, Strauss contracted with a local tailor to make overalls from the canvas.
Shortly thereafter, Strauss replaced the canvas with denim, a softer fabric first milled in Genoa, Italy. The fabric was dyed indigo, which minimized soil stains. In 1893, copper rivets were added to stress points, such as pockets, which tended to be pulled out by the weight of the tools they held. The pants came to be called "jeans" by the 1920s. Although the origin of the name is unclear, it might be from the French Revolutionaries called "Jeans" (pronounced "johns") of the late 1700s who wore a heavy cotton fabric, or from the city of Genoa, Italy, where such fabric was made.

By 1935, these pants had become fashionable items. Today's true "blue jeans" are made out of 100 percent cotton, including the threads. Imitation blue jeans made of polyester blends are also available, but are far less popular than the authentic item. The most common dye used is synthetic (artificially made) indigo.

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